Newsletter #857

A few match reports tonight on our home defeat to Chelsea. We played well for the first 60 minutes or so, had a few decisions go against us, then once the diminutive Zola scored from a header we were not at the races. Frustrating and disappointing are the more polite words I have heard to describe the performance.

A little opinion, a handful of requests, some more Blue humour and the results table to confirm the worst.

Sarah Longshaw has kindly agreed to step into Don’s shoes for the news summary this week and next, so you can send any snippets, rumours etc to her at:

Next game: Birmingham City, away, 3pm Saturday 26 October 2002


It is always a joy and a privilege to watch matches refereed by Dermot Gallagher. It doesn’t even really matter whether City are involved or not, you can always guarantee that one team will get the majority of the decisions given their way, there’s usually at least one clear penalty turned down and generally at least a couple of dodgy “I’ll just check the colour of your shirt before deciding whether to punish you” controversial moments. Saturday was no exception. Goater started for Huckerby who dropped to the bench, full line up was Schmeichel, Sun, Jensen, Howey, Distin, Ali, Eyal, Foe, SWP, The Elk and The Goat. Chelsea had Zola playing. “Don’t worry”, said I, “he’ll be knackered in the second half, if he doesn’t score in the first there’ll be nothing to worry about from him.” Why do I say things like that?

City started off as if they had remembered how to play football. The games at the start of the season where we were playing well and really taking the game to the opposition seemed like a distant memory before Saturday, but they obviously are still capable of doing it. I don’t think it’s their ability that’s been in question (with maybe a couple of exceptions) in recent weeks and they proved during the first 20 minutes that they really can play. Five minutes in Goater ran on to a through ball and was pulled back quite blatantly by Marcel Desailly. At the very least this should have been a free kick and a booking as there was no attempt to play the ball from Desailly but we were living in Dermot-land on Saturday, and centre halves are allowed to foul centre forwards there. Only a couple of minutes after that Anelka was through on goal, in the penalty area, and was fouled by both the goalie and Le Saux. Whaddya know? No penalty, well there’s a surprise. Eyal then hit the left hand post after a great pass from the byline from Goater. Eyal was running the game on Saturday in the first half hour. I was more than a bit critical of him in a few games earlier in the season, as he was going missing for long periods of time – if you accept that he’s never going to tackle (or at least not more than once a month) then he has to earn his place by contributing some creative midfield play, and that’s exactly what he was doing on Saturday. Right up to the moment when Frank Lampard tried to break his leg. More of that in a moment. Cudicini should have been sent off after 15 minutes for handball outside the area – he came rushing out to clear the ball away from the onrushing Elk and slid into the ball to push it out of the area. Unfortunately for him – or so it appeared to begin with – his momentum carried him about 2 metres outside his area, with his hands still on the ball. Was it a free kick and a sending off? In Dermot-land? I don’t think you need to take two guesses for the answer there.

Eyal continued to boss the game from the midfield and we continued to create chances. Foe (who had a much better game on Saturday without actually being good) was guilty of a Whitley – one day he’ll get one of his shots on target, I hope it’s soon. Like on November 9th for example. SWP had a good shot too, and at this stage the game was almost as one sided as the Southampton game had been. The difference is that not all teams are as generous in defensive terms as us and realise that the easiest way not to lose games is to not pass the ball to attackers when they are in your penalty area. Shame really, why doesn’t anyone defend against us the way we do against them? De Lucas (dirty git) fouled Eyal outside the penalty area but although Elk’s resulting shot was on target Cudicini had a relatively easy save to make. Two minutes later Lampard then took it on himself to wipe Eyal out of the game. This was an awful tackle. It was late, from behind, and Lampard had only one intention in his mind – to cause hurt. Now whatever you think of the rule about fouling from behind, and I have to admit I’m not its biggest fan, the fact remains that the rule is clear and Lampard should have been sent off. Except that we were in Dermot-land so he only got a booking. The nonsense value of it was only compounded when a couple of minutes later Ali was also booked, after he’d won the ball with a fair challenge from the side. Even if that could be adjudged to be a foul (and things must look different in Dermot-land) how on earth could such an innocuous challenge be rated the same as attempted GBH? What a farce. Eyal limped his way through to half time but was obviously not right.

Quick wipe with the magic sponge at half time and Eyal was able to continue, but we weren’t the same force in the second half as we’d been in the first. Anelka managed to spin and create a shot for himself out of nowhere but couldn’t get the power on it to trouble Cudicini. Is Elk’s shots on goal tally still the highest in the division? He gets a hell of a lot of shots off, just a shame that they tend to be all straight at the ‘keeper. The problem with the chances that City were creating after was that they were all too ornate. Sometimes it really pays to welly the ball hard at the goal, preferably on target. City seem to be treating goal chances like training exercises – oh no I can’t shoot yet, Steve Howey hasn’t touched the ball in this move! Or I can’t cross this ball into the area yet, I’ve still got two defenders to beat! Still, it was a cruel moment when Chelsea scored. Up till then Schmeichel had easily come and collected each Chelsea corner, but this one got deflected straight to an unmarked Zola. The only person in the ground (never mind on the pitch) smaller than SWP scored a goal with his head. Deserved? Ha don’t make me laugh.

City went completely to pieces after that. The first 70 minutes were on the whole good, flowing football, with plenty of City chances and Chelsea’s attacks snuffed out fairly easily. The last 20 minutes were awful. We forgot how to pass, Schmeichel started just booting the ball up field all the time, the strikers were getting little or no support from midfield…

Sun had had a good game up till then but suddenly reverted to playing like he does when he’s at full back. We’d pushed a long way forward in an attempt to get the equaliser, so when the ball broke out to Zola he and Hasselbaink were suddenly both goal side of our last defenders and Zola had an easy goal to score, running virtually from the half way line (so much for him being knackered) before lifting it sweetly over Schmeichel who couldn’t do a thing about it. A couple of minutes later the same thing happened again. When the ball came over the top Sun was goalside of Hasselbaink, but still couldn’t stop him from collecting the ball and running almost as far as Zola had done before himself slotting it past Schmeichel. A couple of thousand had left after the second goal, quickly followed by about 10 thousand more after the third. Talk about a complete collapse – that is not the sort of reaction I’m sure that Keggy will want to see from his team when going behind ever again. Zola got a standing ovation from all those who were left in the ground when he was subbed with a couple of minutes to go.

Positive points from the game? Well I got back to Cambridge in time to do some Tesco shopping, does that count? Seriously though, we bossed this game for the first hour but (as in the game against Liverpool) couldn’t make anything happen from the possession we had. We have to start taking some of these chances, it’s been a long, long time since we’ve scored a goal. Following Charlton’s win on Sunday we’re now bottom three and I do not want to stay there for much longer. The next two games at Brum and West Brom are crucial, but as Keggy will no doubt continue with the pigging awful tactics of playing one up front away from home until the last 5 minutes when it’s too late I don’t hold out much hope of getting anything out of those games either. Flipping ‘eck Kev, you’ve turned me into a real pessimist and it’s only October.

P.S. A message for Dave who sits behind me on the back row of block GG in the Kippax as I forgot to say this after the game – good luck with your move to Oz in a couple of weeks, here’s hoping they look a lot better when you catch them on satellite than they have been doing in the flesh the last few games…

Sharon Hargreaves


I heard a lot of mixed opinions after the game. Did we do well, and come away with an undeserved scoreline, or did we run out of nouse against a team that showed us what we have to be like to do well in the Premiership?

Well, a bit of both I would think. If you got that sort of performance on a one-off, you would definitely say it was an undeserved result, but that it has happened several times? Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

We changed our tactics slightly from previous performances, with Goater brought into the side to give the team more of a focal point. There was a deliberate emphasis on hitting early passes longer, with the idea that we couldn’t be stifled in midfield. There’s always talk of Keegan being tactically naïve, but here was a good example of him picking up on something we are doing wrong and getting it across well to the players.

Those of you who have seen the highlights will have seen Goater being dragged back, right at the start of the game. An early ball from Jensen, and a well-timed and curved run from Goater put him in the clear, the tactics I referred to earlier. Really it should have been a free kick to City, and a red card for Desailly. Nothing given.

Minutes later Anelka got free down our right and looked to be tripped by Le Saux. This time it was in the penalty area, and the defender was again the last man. Again, nothing was given. Admittedly it was on the far side of the pitch from me, and didn’t seem as clear cut, but usually the odds are if you have two shouts like that, you will get one of them.

However, this did pay some dividends in terms of creating more space in midfield, and we looked like we were finding our players well, and with a bit more purpose; previous performances have just seen us running out of passes in the last third.

We haven’t really got someone the crowd gets on the back of yet, but I think Jensen may soon become a target. He didn’t play badly but looks a bit frustrated, and not as smooth as last season. Teams are playing further up the park than last season so he isn’t receiving the ball with as much of a comfort zone and has less options to pass to. He would tend to look for little balls inside to Berkovic last season but it’s not on any more. The tactic of playing longer balls earlier will hopefully free up space for this, and I think if we continue to mix up the play long and short, he’ll regain his confidence.

Benarbia was again out of sorts but Berkovic had a good game, hitting the post about 15 minutes in, and later setting up Wright-Phillips with a craftily weighted back heel flick.

Defensively the midfield took a while to work out who was picking up who, which meant that Jensen kept finding himself with two men to mark. Eventually though, Berkovic came over towards the left. He doesn’t tackle, and we know that, but at least by sitting in front of their player, it made it more awkward for him to push on.

For me, this is a sign of lack of communication amongst the players. Foe should be bossing the midfield into position. Defensively he is the leader of the midfield, and he should be getting on people’s back, letting them know what they should be doing. However, it took twenty minutes for the players to pick up on this, and it seemed to be on instructions from the bench, rather than from on the field. Nevertheless, we still looked reasonably solid, with Sun Jihai in particular playing well, and making a lot of good interceptions.

Lampard was lucky to stay on the pitch after absolutely flattening Berkovic from behind. This should have again been a straight red; according to the rules any tackle from behind is a straight red, and he went in two-footed, studs-up. He was just yellow carded, but Berkovic was limping for a good while afterwards.

The second half was much less purposeful. Anelka nearly scored out of nothing, fashioning a shooting chance on his left foot that Cudicini did well to save, and Foe turning sharply to bring the best out of him again. Distin put Foe through with a superb run out of defence, but he put the chance well wide. However, these were occasional chances, rather than genuine pressure.

Chelsea looked more threatening. They had a high corner count in the first half, and it was from a corner that they struck. Zola beat Benarbia to the ball and headed in. From then on there was only one team in it. Their two goals came on the break. Distin playing Zola onside for the first, sitting ten yards behind the rest of the defence, and Hasselbaink outpacing Sun for the second.

The midfield just wasn’t in the game in the second half; Berkovic and Benarbia swapped sides to little effect. Goater was brought off, much to the displeasure of the crowd, although Huckerby was cheered as he came on; it was annoyance at the decision, not the choice of replacement.

At one point we had a huge row between Schmeichel and Benarbia conducted at a range of about fifty yards. I don’t know what they were arguing about, but I would be prepared to bet that Schmeichel was right. Much as I didn’t want to like him at the start of the season, the big-nosed one has won me over.

I noticed from the tables this morning that we have the worst defensive record in the Premiership. This doesn’t surprise me given the way we played. At one point in the second half Chelsea had a four on two overlap. Fortunately for us Sun read the situation and intercepted a pass that would have put Hasselbaink free in front of goal (unfortunately Chelsea then scored from the corner). As the play unfolded Foe was jogging back towards the penalty area, when if he had been sprinting flat out he could have got back into a covering position. That isn’t tactical naivity, it is individual laziness.

Having said that, I am not that convinced by our defensive set up. Jensen isn’t as confident as last season, which I think has a lot to do with Pearce not being his cover. That’s not to take anything away from Distin as a player – he’s just not as vocal as Pearce was. And despite the fact that all the defenders are playing individually quite well, they don’t seem to be gelling as a unit, and they aren’t being shielded by the midfield.

What can Keegan do to change things? It’s difficult to say. When you look at the team he selects, you can’t say that he is blatantly picking the wrong players? Tiatto for Jensen? Maybe, but Jensen isn’t doing too badly – note the perfectly weighted fifty yard pass to put Goater in at the start of the game. Horlock for Foe, probably. He’d do a sound job, and he linked well with Berkovic and Benarbia last season, but he is faced with teams playing ten yards further up the pitch than last season, and it’s a much harder rôle to play than he had last year. Take the captaincy off Benarbia? Yes, but who do you give it to? Schmeichel can’t get any more vocal than he already is, and I can’t see a natural leader elsewhere in the team. When we have been successful recently, it has been when we have had that natural leader (and closer to the action than Schmeichel), Morrison, then Pearce. I’m not saying that we should re-sign Andy Morrison, but maybe someone with that sort of character wouldn’t go amiss.

Blue Grouch (


Our dismal record against Chelsea continues. According to Sky, we had won 1 out of the previous 12 games between us. Let’s hope our recent good run of results over Birmingham carries on next week. We didn’t deserve 0-3. We more than matched Chelsea until they scored the first but it was very disappointing how we fell apart afterwards.

I thought that we started very well. In his programme notes, KK had promised that the team would make amends for the performance at Southampton, and it seemed to me that they were determined to do so. The players settled very quickly into the passing game that we seem capable of playing at home, although our first two chances came from longer balls.

First, Jensen swept a ball from left back behind the Chelsea back four. The Goat had a head start and it did look (from Kippax Block CCL) as if he was impeded as he bore down on goal. He stopped running and appealed to the ref as Chelsea cleared the ball. TV replays at half-time didn’t convince me, but the TV highlights that night showed Desailly pull The Goat’s arm back. If Dermot Gallagher had seen it then he would surely have sent Desailly off. I suppose that many other forwards would have made sure by spinning and falling to the ground. Alas, our man is an honest pro!

Five minutes later Anelka was put through on the right side of the box. He seemed to be ahead of Le Saux and in position to put his body between him and the ball before shooting. However, Le Saux got a tackle in and the ball bounced off Anelka’s shins to the ‘keeper. Penalty claims again, but it was hard to tell, even after TV replays.

After the first quarter of an hour, Chelsea got into the game and I thought it was becoming an even contest. Lampard had a drive deflected just wide and they had three or four 4 corners in fairly quick succession.

We still created the better chances though. Foe shot high and wide in space at the edge of the box. Berkovic, who I thought was having his best game of the season so far, passed the ball down the left to the Goat, who pulled it back from the byline. Ali B stepped over it and Berkovic, streching, hit the post with the goalie nowhere. Just before half-time W-P played a one-two with Berkovic’s back-heel and volleyed just wide. Then Ali B had a shot blocked by the ‘keeper at close range and the rebound went just wide of Berkovic. The team were given warm applause at half-time. The general consensus amongst our group was that one goal would decide the game.

We started the second half well too. Chances came to Foe, who turned his defender smartly and drove with his left foot. Cudicini made a very good save low to his left. Later on, Anelka had a similar effort parried out.

Chelsea’s goal came as such a disappointment. Le Saux swung over a hard, inswinging corner. I think that either Petit or Jensen got a flick at the near post and Zola headed in, unmarked, from three yards out in the centre of goal. I think that most of us feared then that the game was up. The players, unfortunately, seemed to agree. The team stopped playing the passing game and looked very disjointed in consequence. I don’t know if some were tired after international duties but they certainly looked it. Huckerby came on for the Goat and ran at defenders without making much impression. Once he slipped the ball through for Berkovic, who had started to move but then gave up. Huckerby got groans from the crowd, but I thought his team-mate had let him down.

Then Chelsea broke up another attack, Le Saux lofted the ball down the left wing and Zola ran on unmarked towards goal. Hasselbaink was free in the centre. Zola looked across, Schmeichel bought the dummy, dived out for the square pass and Zola lifted the ball over him and into the net. I reckon that about a third of the crowd left then. They missed Melchiot burst forward and send Hasselbaink away from the halfway line. He had got goalside of Sun, like Owen did in the last home game, and he finished powerfully, left-footed.

That was about it. We all felt very low afterwards, but Chelsea are a good team and have been in the Premiership top six for a few seasons and we more than matched them for about two-thirds of the game. What was disappointing was the way we responded after going a goal down. The brief TV highlights at night reminded us of the chances we had. The commentator declared that we should have been “out of sight” before Chelsea scored.

Ali B is still short of the form he showed last year. Anelka still looks to me to be pure class but fed up at the quality of his strike partners. But options are limited. Vuoso was on the bench on Saturday so maybe he is close to getting a chance. Tiatto is available now and I suppose he might come in for Jensen or a midfielder. Either Tiatto or Horlock might be used instead of a second striker, but I hope that KK resists the temptation to play 1 up front against Brum and WBA. We could do with at least one win from those two, I think.

John Marsland (


I was ill, so I gave my cousin Elena my ticket and watched the highlights on TV.

Dad, mum, Josh and Elena were in the Gene Kelly stand. City started quite well. One of the Chelsea players tugged Shaun Goater back and he fell over but the referee didn’t give a penalty. Berkovic hit the post. It was a frustrating half for City. Second half – Foe was foiled by the Chelsea ‘keeper, as was Anelka. Zola got the first goal with a header. Chelsea then scored two more as City fell apart.

Adam – age 6 (c/o

[Hope you’re feeling better, Adam. Some of us wish we’d missed it too ? – Ed]


Thanks Steve (Kay) for reminding us of last season’s records… surely there’s got to be a record for most records broken in one season?

I wonder if anyone knows what the record is in the history of league football for highest number of consecutive seasons of movement between divisions? That could be something to keep an eye on at this rate.

CTID! Hsien Min (


Thanks to all those who replied regarding my request for some quality wallpaper.

I received some very good ones so once again – thanks!

Keep the faith, Andrew Keller (


The derby game on 9th November is being shown in Oz.

An invitation is extended to all MCFC ISC Supporters to join us at the derby at ‘Old Colonial Inn’, 127 Brunswick St., Fitzroy, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. 8pm start – 2am finish, raffle door prize (only 100 tickets available for this at $2.00 each), stop the music prizes. Then watch the game on huge screen.

Reservations for meals are essential please. Supporters in other countries are welcome to send us support notes to the ‘Inn’ at the above address.

Thank you, Judi-Ann – MCFC ISC, Melbourne, Australia (


I am in a part of seven travelling to Brisbane to watch the first Ashes Test Match. Unfortunately it coincides with the Maine Road derby on the 9th. Is anybody aware of a bar in Brisbane that will be showing the game?

Thanks, David Connor (


I have 2 away tickets going spare. Face value, email or call 07976 422971.

John Marsland (


Q. How do you save a United fan from drowning?
A. Take your foot off their head.

Q: Why do United fans have see-through lunch box lids?
A: So that when they’re on the train, they can tell if they’re going to work or coming home.

Q: What’s the difference between a United fan and a supermarket trolley?
A: a supermarket trolley has a mind of its own.

Q: What does a United fan say when you ask him if his indicator is on?
A: It’s on – It’s off – It’s on – It’s off – It’s on – it’s off.

Rick Eagles (


Recent results from 07 October 2002 to 20 October 2002 inclusive.

20 October 2002

Charlton Athletic     1 - 0  Middlesbrough         26,271
Tottenham Hotspur     3 - 1  Bolton Wanderers      35,909

19 October 2002

Leeds United          0 - 1  Liverpool             40,187
Blackburn Rovers      5 - 2  Newcastle United      27,307
Everton               2 - 1  Arsenal               39,038
Fulham                1 - 1  Manchester United     18,103
Manchester City       0 - 3  Chelsea               34,953
Sunderland            0 - 1  West Ham United       44,352
West Bromwich Albion  1 - 1  Birmingham City       27,021

7 October 2002

Manchester United     3 - 0  Everton               67,629

League table to 20 October 2002 inclusive.

                             HOME          AWAY        OVERALL
                    P  W  D  L  F  A  W  D  L  F  A  W  D  L  F   A   GD Pts
 1 Liverpool       10  3  2  0 10  4  4  1  0 10  4  7  3  0  20   8  12  24
 2 Arsenal         10  5  0  0 14  5  2  2  1 11  6  7  2  1  25  11  14  23
 3 Tottenham H.    10  4  0  1  9  7  2  1  2  7  7  6  1  3  16  14   2  19
 4 Manchester Utd  10  4  0  1  6  1  1  3  1  7  6  5  3  2  13   7   6  18
 5 Middlesbrough   10  4  1  0  9  2  1  1  3  4  4  5  2  3  13   6   7  17
 6 Chelsea         10  1  2  1  8  6  3  2  1 10  6  4  4  2  18  12   6  16
 7 Fulham           9  3  2  0  9  4  1  1  2  5  5  4  3  2  14   9   5  15
 8 Blackburn R.    10  2  2  2 11  9  2  1  1  5  3  4  3  3  16  12   4  15
 9 Everton         10  3  2  0  9  5  1  0  4  4 10  4  2  4  13  15  -2  14
10 Leeds United    10  2  0  3  5  6  2  1  2  6  4  4  1  5  11  10   1  13
11 Newcastle Utd    9  3  0  1  8  3  1  1  3  6 11  4  1  4  14  14   0  13
12 Birmingham City 10  2  0  2  5  4  1  3  2  6  8  3  3  4  11  12  -1  12
13 Southampton      9  2  3  0  4  1  0  1  3  2  7  2  4  3   6   8  -2  10
14 Aston Villa      9  3  1  1  6  3  0  0  4  0  6  3  1  5   6   9  -3  10
15 Charlton Ath.   10  1  0  4  4 10  2  1  2  4  4  3  1  6   8  14  -6  10
16 West Brom A.    10  2  1  2  4  6  1  0  4  4 10  3  1  6   8  16  -8  10
17 West Ham United  9  0  2  3  3  7  2  0  2  6  9  2  2  5   9  16  -7   8
18 Manchester City 10  2  1  2  6  9  0  1  4  1  8  2  2  6   7  17 -10   8
19 Sunderland      10  1  1  3  2  6  1  1  3  2  8  2  2  6   4  14 -10   8
20 Bolton Wndrs     9  1  1  2  5  6  1  0  4  4 11  2  1  6   9  17  -8   7

With thanks to Football 365

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Newsletter #857